• Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Piano Trio: A Voyage to Fair Isle (2002)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • pf.vn.vc
  • 20 min

Programme Note

The Piano Trio was written in September 2002 for the Grieg Trio of Norway. The inspiration was a trip to Fair Isle, an island I can just see from my home in Orkney on a good day, but a place which, under normal circumstances, is difficult to get to, and which one would hardly have time to visit. However, I was invited to the first ever music festival there.

The physical remoteness and craggy beauty of the place are well-known, but it was the involvemement of the population of seventy or so souls in the mounting of a new work by Alastair Stout, a Shetlander from there, which struck home most. This made demands on the island Chorus and the folk musicians which would daunt professionals, but which, in performance, gave everyone concerned huge satisfaction. I was most of all moved through the extraordinary expression of a community's essence - one felt that a challenging piece of new music had really permeated, through months of rehearsal, into the spirit of Fair Isle, to become a part of its fabric in a way new music seldom can - affecting and even changing the lives of a very special community.

My Trio is an attempt to express my delight at, and appreciation of this Fair Isle experience. I based all on a plainsong, proper to the day composition commenced, for the birth of the Virgin, which generates and permeates the whole of the single movement.

In a slow introduction the basic material emerges - in the following "allegro" I have tried to capture some characteristics of the local dance music, in the course of rigorous isometric transformations. The development section proper is slow and is followed not by a direct recapitulation of the "allegro", but by a scherzo which continues the transofmration processes already under way. Before and after the slow development, the flow is interrupted by short direct tributes to the indigenous musical tradition; the tunes are mine, arising from, and returning to, the all-pervading plainsong - but fashioned "in style".

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